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Space and the 'March of Mind'Literature and the Physical Sciences in Britain 1815-1850$
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Alice Jenkins

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199209927

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199209927.001.0001

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Organizing the Space of Knowledge

Organizing the Space of Knowledge

(p.55) 2 Organizing the Space of Knowledge
Space and the 'March of Mind'

Alice Jenkins (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Landscape metaphors tended to figure knowledge as an immense tract of country through which hardy and determined learners must struggle. But many efforts were made in the early 19th century to picture knowledge as a harmonious, balanced system, which could be mastered more gently, often simply by detached observation, and in these attempts too spatial models were widely and variously deployed. This chapter discusses some contemporary attempts to construct a model for laying out knowledge in comprehensible patterns. Opening and closing with a reminder via Middlemarch of some of the practical and ethical issues involved in organizing knowledge, the chapter moves on to use readings of Wordsworth's Guide through the Lakes and Coleridge's Biographia Literaria to highlight different ways of imagining knowledge as a visual spatial pattern. It focuses on the hub-and-ray pattern, where the observer is placed at the centre of a series of radiating lines each formed by items of knowledge, and the aerial view, which locates the observer high above an array of information which can have a more random distribution. Each model constructs a different power relationship between the observer and the knowledge spread below or around him. Radically differently from the landscape images in Chapter 1, though, all these models aspire to present knowledge in an atemporal form — to arrange it in such a way that no time is taken in assimilating it. These models respond to the challenge from mass education by trying to take the narrative out of knowledge and to render it as dehumanized pure form.

Keywords:   knowledge, Wordsworth, Coleridge, visual spatial pattern, hub-and-ray pattern

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